The Slovenia Times

Doctors remove stomach of wrong patient after mix-up

Health & Medicine
Doctors preparing for a surgery. Photo: Xinhua/STA

Doctors at the Ljubljana Oncology Institute removed the stomach of a wrong patient late last year due to a mix-up of tissue samples at a private diagnostics provider. The institutions involved confirmed the incident on 16 February after a news portal reported about it.

The private provider, Barsos Medical Centre, performed gastroscopy tests on two patients in October, taking samples for histopathological examination, which they referred to the Pathology Institute.

One sample showed the presence of cancer cells, while the other did not. The patient diagnosed with cancer was referred to the Oncology Institute for further treatment, Barsos director Urša Murn told reporters.

The patient underwent examination and other tests at the Oncology Institute, with a council of doctors examining his case advising surgery in light of the histological findings. The other tests did not give any indication there was anything wrong with the histological results, the institute's medical director Irena Oblak explained.

The patient underwent surgery in late November and recovered well. However, on examining the tissue of the stomach removed during the surgery, the Oncology Institute's pathology department found it to be non-cancerous. It then also tested the original tissue sample taken by Barsos, which was cancerous.

An Oncology Institute surgeon informed a Barsos gastroenterologist of the findings in early January and late that month Barsos notified the Oncology Institute that there may have been a mix-up of tissue samples between the two patients, said Gašper Pilko, head of the Oncology Institute's division of surgery.

Head of the Institute of Pathology Jože Pižem, Barsos Medical Centre director Urša Murn, medical director of the Oncology Institute Irena Oblak and the head of the institute division of surgery Gašper Pilko talk to reporters about a mix-up that led to a gastrectomy in a wrong patient. Photo: Aleš Osvald/STA

Having sent the two samples for re-examination, Barsos received the results on 1 February which confirmed the suspicion of a mix-up. Their gastroenterologist informed the two patients of the situation the next day.

Murn said it was as yet unclear at what stage the mix-up occurred. She said Barsos was in contact with both patients and will help them find solutions to at least somewhat relieve the situation they have found themselves in.

The Oncology Institute also apologised to the patient who underwent surgery and offered him psychological help and supportive treatment. "We will be available to the patient at the Oncology Institute for as long as he needs," Pilko said.

The Oncology Institute has carried out an internal review, which found that the type of cancer confirmed in the laboratory required surgery. The patient was therefore treated at the Oncology Institute in accordance with protocols and standard clinical practice at all times, the medical director said.

An internal review has also been conducted at the Institute of Pathology, which ruled out the mix-up occurring there, the institute's Jože Pižem said.

Barsos subsequently took another sample from the other patient, which confirmed that he had cancer. Murn would not disclose further details, saying the patient did not want publicity, but she did add that he was receiving appropriate treatment.

He is not being treated at the Oncology Institute, but cancer patients are also treated by Slovenia's two medical centres, in Ljubljana and Maribor.

Asked about the consequences of gastrectomy, Pilko said that patients can live a relatively normal life after removal, with appropriate dietary adjustments and vitamins replacement.

Barsos reported the incident to the Health Ministry's quality and oversight office on 15 February, a day after reporters of the N1 news portal made inquiries about the mix-up incident. The provider's director said the date was not related to journalists' questions.


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